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The Morning Vertical, May 9, 2017

Your daily roundup


The Kremlin's behavior in the French election sure was a head scratcher.

France is probably the European country most favorably disposed toward Russia and Emmanuel Macron wasn't anti-Moscow when he entered the race.

But now, after months of smears, hacks, and fake news, it's a pretty safe bet that France's new president will be a Russia skeptic and a staunch foe of Vladimir Putin's regime.

Earlier this year, Vladimir Putin's regime thought it was going to have an easy ride in France. The race was shaping up to be a showdown between two pro-Moscow candidates Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon.

It was a win-win scenario that evaporated when Fillon's campaign floundered.

But what doesn't really make any sense is why the Kremlin decided to turn Macron into an enemy, even when it became increasingly clear he would be the likely winner.

But this is exactly what the Kremlin did and it was politically tone deaf.

So now Moscow has managed to alienate both Germany and France -- and the backlash against Russia's political war on Europe is only growing.


The extremist group Islamic State has issued a video showing the beheading of a man it described as a Russian intelligence officer captured in Syria, according to a U.S.-based monitoring organization.

Vladimir Putin used a speech at a military parade commemorating the Allied victory over Nazi Germany to press Western countries to fall in line with Moscow's approach to combating international terrorism, saying it was disunity that enabled Adolf Hitler's forces to rampage across Europe and threaten the planet.

Syria's foreign minister said Russian troops, not UN-supervised international forces, will enforce the cease-fire in safe zones established under a Russian-led agreement.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear to then President-elect Donald Trump that he did not support Michael Flynn, whom Trump later fired as national security adviser in connection with his contacts with Russian officials, the White House said.

Sally Yates, a former top U.S. Justice Department official, has testified that she told the White House in January that Flynn was in danger of being compromised by Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet in Washington on May 10 to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as other bilateral issues, the U.S. State Department said.

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili's office said that U.S. President Donald Trump expressed Washington's "full support of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity" during a May 8 meeting at the White House.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office says he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have discussed her meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has denounced the recent execution of a man in Belarus, the only country in Europe which still applies the death penalty.


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast looked at the rising protest mood in Russia and the degree to which vigilante attacks on opposition leaders like Aleksei Navalny are sanctioned by the regime.


French Election Fallout

The Atlantic Council's Alina Polyakova discusses the French election on C-Span.

In, Grigory Golosov of the European University of St. Petersburg looks at what to expect in French-Russian relations under Macron.

In The New York Times, Neil MacFarquhar looks at the reactions in Russia to Macron's victory.

In Quartz, Max de Haldevang explains why Russia's attempts to meddle in the French election "failed spectacularly."

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky also looks at why Macron won despite the hacking and the fake news.

In a piece for Politico on Macron's foreign policy, Ben Judah writes that "the newly minted French president knows Brussels, distrusts Moscow and must learn everything else."

And it is well worth reading Christopher Dickey's piece in The Daily Beast last month, "Fighting Back Against Putin's Hackers," on how the Macron campaign countered cyber attacks.

Fear Of Revolution

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kaskin looks at the fears and apprehensions of late Putinism.

Victory Day

Ola Cichowlas has a piece in The Moscow Times on how Russian schoolchildren are taught World War II.

In Intersection magazine, Yuri Lobunov, editor in chief of the Gorod32 news agency, calls out the hypocrisy of Russia's annual Victory Day commemorations."Russia’s remaining veterans of the Second World War are honored with lavish parades on Victory Day. But for the rest of the year, the government treats them with contempt," he writes.

Remembering Mr. X

In The Daily Beast, James Warren marks looks ahead to the 70th anniversary of George Kennan's Mr. X article, and back on why the policy of containment was a success.

The Global Rumor Mill

GlobalVoices has a piece by Oleg Kashin on how Moscow reinvented the global rumor mill.


I will be traveling from May 10-15 inclusive to give a talk at NATO in Brussels and then to participate in the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn. The Morning Vertical, and all Power Vertical Products, will not appear on these days. The regular schedule resumes on Tuesday May 16.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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